ESC, Facials

A relaxing facial does a pampering session make—but, really, how beneficial is it for your skin?

At the basic level, most of us get facials to keep skin healthy and pores clean. (Blackheads, we're looking at you.) While the neck massage and mask feel glorious, we often wonder what constitutes a great facial. How can we tell we're getting our money's worth? Are extractions supposed to hurt? How is our skin supposed to react days after? All can be explained with the help of celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, who's treated the glowing visages of Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Karlie Kloss.

Ask questions: Most importantly, a facial gives you an opportunity to have an open dialogue about skin health with an expert. "You should never be afraid to speak up!" Vargas urged.

Watch for timing: Your eyes may be closed but you shouldn't be left alone for too long. When the facialist applies a mask, he or she often allows it to absorb into your skin. "A facialist may want it to sit for longer if you had lots of extractions or if your skin is sensitive and red; however, for an hour-long facial, it shouldn't be applied for any longer than that," the expert noted. "Being left alone for five to 10 minutes is relaxing, but being left alone for longer is not OK."

Extractors vs. hands: Many aestheticians use a pen-shaped tool called an extractor to apply pressure to your skin to push out blackhead from your pores; however, simply using his or her fingers can be just as effective. Either way, "a good facialist should know how to extract without causing too much redness," the pro said.

Know your pain tolerance: "I have found over the years that many people have different thresholds for pain," said Vargas. "I can't swear extractions shouldn't hurt because sometimes it's unavoidable, but you shouldn't leave a facial too red." If the client leaves the salon looking raw or uncomfortable, it's a sign that the facialist might've used products that reacted poorly to the skin.

You shouldn't break out post-treatment: "Sometimes the skin can break out because your skin has been stimulated," noted Vargas. "Any pimple that was brewing below is likely to come out after a treatment, but if the aesthetician knows your skin, this won't happen. I wouldn't over-treat it if it does happen; just put on a spot treatment overnight and you should be fine."

Don't feel pressure to buy additional treatments: "I think an aesthetician who suggests a product or two during a facial as a solution to a real concern is normal," she said. Any more and they are trying to up-sell you. "Women should always trust their own instincts," Vargas added.

Adjust your post-treatment regimen: "I don't believe a good facial is ruined by putting makeup on right after. However, I would recommend skipping makeup right after if the skin is irritated or there had been tons of extractions because this could cause a breakout," she advised. "Skip exfoliation for several days after a facial because you could get redness and breakouts with over-exfoliation. Finally, avoid touching the skin a lot after a facial because this could also irritate the skin and cause a breakout."

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